If you don’t know how to start a conversation with a Chinese person, you can start by asking about the meaning behind their name.
When you speak both Chinese and English, you will understand the difference behind the logic of giving names.
Some names are meaningless in English, the majority are anyway. However, in Chinese, you can compose a name freely. You only need to choose from a vocabulary of thousands of characters.
It could be a colour, a natural element, an abstract expression or even a number. The given name character(s) come together with the surname character to form a new entity which is your full name. For example, my name Lu means dew drop and my family name Xia means summer. Therefore, my full name means summer’s dew drop.
I did come across someone previously with an English name Misty Waters, which is almost as poetic as mine. We should have formed a band called The Misty Dew Drops!
Potentially, Chinese names could end up with unlimited possibilities. That is the reason it is always so difficult for westerners to memorize any Chinese names because they always seem different somehow. Adopting an English name is definitely an easy solution to this. I predict that Meghan is going to be the next big Chinese name!
In English, given names comes before surnames. However, with Chinese names, we always place the family name first. When a Chinese name changes order to suit the western world, it loses its meaning. Chinese names do not merely reflect word orders, apparently it is closely related to your fortune. How the characters are composed and how many strokes your name has are definitely going to be deciding factors to your destiny. Naming a Chinese person is never a matter of choosing from a list of ready-made names, it requires the knowledge of linguistics, phonology as well as divination.
So, if Shakespeare thinks that names do not matter when he says in Romeo and Juliet “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” he obviously has never met a Chinese person!
Written by: Lu Xia – Recruitment Consultant